Schorsch has just launched Context Florida – basically a website featuring columns from a wide variety of Floridians. He did not have the idea first. Instead, he picked up the pieces of Florida Voices, an ambitious effort that ultimately failed because the founders struggled to find enough advertisers.
In that failure, Schorsch sees opportunity. He has kept many of the original writers and editors. And he is adding more. He also has a track record for bringing in advertising.
This is not the first time that Schorsch has capitalized on someone else’s idea. Not long ago he created Sunburn – a daily compendium of political news stories that are emailed free to subscribers. It is a nearly an exact copy of the popular Politico Playbook by Mike Allen. Schorsch even chatted with the folks at Politico about his idea to offer a Florida version.
The cornerstone of Schorsch’s mini internet empire is SaintPetersBlog. Through sheer pluck, he turned that blog into a must-read in the St. Petersburg area. He later pushed hard to make himself a presence in Tallahassee.
He is shameless. He is brash. He is combative. He apparently never sleeps.
A political operative, Schorsch is not shy about using SaintPetersBlog to blast his enemies and heap praise on his friends/clients. If you disagree with him, he is likely to rip you unmercifully. Sometimes he goes too far making you wonder if anyone ever tells him to think before he hits the send button.
He is the first to admit he is not a journalist (although you get the feeling he would like nothing more than to be treated like one). Which brings us to the question – why are newspaper owners and editors not paying attention to Schorsch?
Not him. His business.
Sunburn has what newspapers are clamoring for – advertisers. Politico perfected the idea. It was just sitting there waiting for another news organization to offer its own state version. None did. Schorsch grabbed it.
Context Florida is still unproven but Schorsch has managed to convince some advertisers to appear on the new website. Once again, one wonders – was there not an opportunity for newspapers to recreate Florida Voices and make some money?
In 2002, Justin Sayfie created the website SayfieReview. He was the first in Florida to see an opportunity to take advantage of an already established idea – the Drudge Report. Sayfie, a Republican political operative and lawyer, simple aggregated a long list of Florida newspaper stories. SayfieReview rapidly became a must-visit website.
This was at a time when newspapers were loathe to link to stories in competing newspapers. The idea of creating a convenient place for a reader to find all major state news stories was an anathema to newspaper editors.
Sayfie has been laughing all the way to bank ever since. Now, news reporters have a stroke if their stories do not appear on SayfieReview because for them – that’s where the audience is found.
With that audience, Sayfie has been able to fill his site with advertisers. A smart Florida newspaper might have had the opportunity to steal Sayfie’s thunder but instead they allowed newspaper ego to get in the way and dismissed the effort. While Sayfie has watched his market share grow, newspaper advertising continues to decline.
SayfieReview has challenges. There is less need to go to his site to find state news stories. Twitter gives the stories to you in real time while Sayfie continues with the now quaint model of gathering them all in one place just once a day (he has incorporated a twitter feed on his site). And newspaper pay walls are making SayfieReview news links less useful.
Unlike many newspapers, Sayfie continues to look for new ways to make his website compelling for readers – and advertisers.
Meanwhile, Peter Schorsch is rivaling Sayfie with his array of three web products which positions Schorsch to offer package deals allowing advertisers to appear on one, two or all three of his web products.
Their efforts may yet fail, but Sayfie and Schorsch have proved they are capable of seeing opportunity, grabbing it, attract advertising and make profits. Sayfie Review, Sunburn, Context Florida – three opportunities that could have been owned profitably by Florida newspapers.
It's a shame.